Illuminate: The new events space at The Science Museum

Illuminate: The new events space at The Science Museum

A British institution, the Science Museum in South Kensington houses one of the most spectacular collections of revolutionary technology that changed the face of the world.
From spacecraft to the steam engine credited with giving birth to the industrial revolution, the Science Museum is a centre of innovations, and therefore it is only fitting it has a modern and innovative events space to match.

Illuminate, which is due to open in March, is a brand-new, dual-level space fully dedicated to conferences and events.

A unique venue, Illuminate will hold exclusive partnerships with renowned caterers Moving Venue and White Light – the assigned AV partner. The trio will work together to create streamlined event packages, ensuring a convenient and cost-effective booking process for clients.

“It is amazing to have a space that has been built with events in mind,” says Ben Paris, exclusive venues manager at Moving Venue. “It means you have kitchens, cloakroom and back-of-house areas interconnecting and they are large, so it means you can have a really seamless event.
“Having that all in mind at the start helps to make such a dynamic space.”

With a wealth of experience catering for special events, Moving Venue has been working with the museum for 20 years, and was chosen to complement the ethos of innovation and discovery. It will create tailored menus incorporating the latest trends and food styling for the diverse range of events that can be accommodated in Illuminate.

Situated on levels four and five, the former Medical Galleries, Illuminate will be available for both daytime and evening hire for capacities of up to 400 for dinners and conferences and 450 for receptions.

“Due to cuts in government funding we had to find other ways of bringing revenue into the museum, and so this was created as an events space available for daytime use,” says Jodie Guilford, business development and marketing manager at the Science Museum. “It is amazing for us to be able to offer that now.”

The space will be available for day hire from 8am to 6pm and then through the evening up to 1am.

“It is a blank canvas space, so a lot of our clients will be using the day to set up before a night-time event,” says Guilford. “That means it can be used in conjunction with other spaces, too. So, they could use this as a conferencing area before moving down into one of our larger galleries for dining or a drinks reception if needed.”
The museum already plays host to events across many of its famous galleries, but Guilford says that Illuminate will not conflict with this.
“We are very limited on daytime space in the museum, because we have to keep spaces open to the public, which is our main priority,”she explains. “It is a brand-new offer for us and because it is consistent in offer, we can have repeat business in there, too.”

Illuminate, designed by Mary Duggan Architects, is split into two levels, playing on the theme of light and dark.

One of the unique features of level five is a panoramic window offering stunning views of the city and an abundance of natural daylight, a key element in ensuring a productive meeting or conference experience.

Individually-controlled pendant lights can change the tone colour of the room, while sound speakers, plasma TV screens and a 13k laser projector add to a metallic framework. A shimmering curtain can be drawn in a circle to close in the space and make it feel more private.

In contrast, floor four is a smaller space complete with darkened curtain walls, an alcove for a stage or performance area and both flooring and lighting that gears up for a more night-time feel.

“We have really worked on the space as a partnership to make sure the space is beneficial for everyone,” says Paris.

The Moving Venue team invested and had a say in the process of developing the large main kitchen and the supplementary downstairs kitchen, which allows for two catered-for events to be happening at the same time.

“Moving Venue has been accredited to the Science Museum for more than 20 years, so we know the fabric of the museum,” adds Paris.
“We will have a dedicated team on-site, integrated within the Science Museum events team. The kitchens are based on-site as well as the cookery utensils, cutlery and glassware.
“Having most things based here is more sustainable and economically beneficial.”

The size of the kitchen is very telling, with a wide elevator able to transport deliveries straight into the kitchen. There is also storage and large areas for plating up food banquet-style to ensure ‘operational excellence and innovative menus’.

“From a service perspective, you can enter the room at three different points, which alleviates service blockages,” says Paris. “The back of house is all connected and we will have a dedicated staffing supplier that will be specific to Illuminate, so we can have staff that know the building and the layout.
“Even if you consider it a blank canvas space, with the views you have on three sides, you are still very much a part of South Kensington and the heritage of the museum. So, we feel it has a really good blend between unique and blank canvas.”

The Illuminate chapter is close to fruition and enquiries are reaching the heights of more than 100 per week for its first year of operation, meaning this could be a revenue lifeline for the museum.

“We have had to turn away so much business in the past,” says Guilford. “We always needed a space like this. So, to be able to offer this to our clients, it opens us up to a new array of industries and event types, from product launches to multi-day events. It is a massive deal for us.”